Heroes of the hour: Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak Maharaj, Sir Subramanya Iyer/Dr. Sir S. Subramanya Iyer
|←Tilak Maharaj||Heroes of the hour: Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak Maharaj, Sir Subramanya Iyer
Dr. Sir S. Subramanya Iyer
Dr. Sir S. SUBRAMANIA IYER
Dr. SIR S. SUBRAMANYA IYER
South India has never been poor in talent, and among the contemporaries of Sir Subramanya Iyer may be easily mentioned men who, in different walks of life, have made an enduring reputation. Between the early days of 1869 when he was enrolled as a High Court Vakil and these historic times when he is playing so unique, inspiring and decisive a part in shaping the future of the country, men of acknowledged eminence as judges and jurists, of lasting renown as administrators, of unflinching courage and sturdy devotion as makers of public opinion, and of profound mastery of the literature of a foreign tongue have left their mark. Their names have become a part of South Indian history and their marbled monuments exist not in indifferent statuary, but in the silent homage paid to their worth and work as one mentions their names. Sir Subramanya Iyer, till yesterday, belonged to this category of what may respectfully be called the worthies of South India. But his intrepid heroism in a supreme hour of trial has entitled him to a place with men whose life has become a part of the heritage of the sons and daughters of all-India. Among the living he takes rank to-day with Messrs. Tilak and Gandhi in the contribution he has made to national enrichment.
Mr. Gandhi is of a type which the world produces once in a way, a type that recalls after long gaps of time the height to which the power of human will can take one, and the conquest which lies within the reach of a great moral manhood. It is a life worthy of meditation for all times. From him to Balwanta Rao Tilak is to take a turn and traverse a distance to find a career dedicated from its very commencement to the service of national self-respect. It is the life of a man who, identifying his own prestige with the prestige of the nation and finding the latter mortifyingly low,spoke time after time truths to the chagrin of the powers that be, and paid the penalty in the sentences to long terms of imprisonment served by him. Tt appears as though Mr. Tilak became unhappy outside prison walls and was only contented when he became a tapasi doing his penance, if necessary, in prison garb and on jail diet. He is a born hero, and created situations for himself unlike Mr. Gandhi who, faced by a tyrannous conjunction in a foreign land under the same sovereign power to which he was subject, illumined himself by a philosophy, religion and ethical code of conduct and overcame with their help the forces of unreasoning political power and prejudice. The greatest merit in Mr. Gandhi is that he has, after his return to India, kept himself steadfastly to those principles of life and living with the help of which he triumphed over his racial and political adversaries in South Africa. It is comparatively easy to rise to a moral altitude under the pressure of great emergencies ; but to remain there, making a permanent abode of it, after those exigencies have passed away, not lapsing into currents of thought more congenial to the changed conditions, is indeed demonstrative of the hero that was always alive in Mr. Gandhi, although dormant, prior to the South African struggle. Especially when we take into consideration the elements trying to gain ascendancy by making every circumstance to contribute to personal prominence, it is a great relief, indeed to have in our midst a silent corrective factor in those principles which constitute Mr. Gandhi's life day by day. No doubt there was here and there a silent fear that some of his ubiquitous admirers or a few well-meaning friends of his, prompted by a perfectly humane consideration for a better standard of personal comfort to him, might be apt to draw him out of his chosen orbit of self-denial and simplicity. Human nature primarily is such that it more easily deviates from a thorny path of service on account of unconsciously deceptive solicitude of friends and admirers than on account of open hostility or detraction. It is not only princes who have their flatterers, it is not only high placed officials that have their sycophants. Persons like Mr. Gandhi are not exempt from both; nay, they may have worshippers among big and small, and arch-priests who worship as much for the sake of the prominence that it gives them as such as for the sake of the heroism that merits worship. From such a danger Mr. Tilak is more exempt than Mr. Gandhi—because he has had, if not an army of detractors, a cult of detractors. Of course, his followers he has always had, but to be known as a follower of Mr. Tilak has not been a passport even in all non-official circles. Whereas, in the case of Mr. Gandhi, the hallow of the South African triumph is still playing round his puggree, and his austere life since his settling down in India has established him as a monarch among men. He now belongs to the category of the ancient sage before whom the prince, descending the steps of the throne and laying aside his sceptre, bowed; and the man of meanest occupation felt drawn to unbosom all his trials and troubles. Of the genus of such, Mr. Gandhi's greatness will necessarily surround him with men some of whom, basking for the while in the reflected light and glow of the interpreter of Ahimsa in politics,may endeavour to make him somewhat of a great man after their own heart. From all such influences he has been absolutely free of taint ; and he is a reserve power being outside parties and party politics and party machinations. The breath of politics is compromise, but there is compromise and compromise. There can be compromise for instance in the speed of one's progress. Instead of trying to finish a distance in ten hours, or instead of taking twenty hours, it may be agreed by compromise that the journey may occupy fifteen hours. But if one wants to go North and another West, there is no meaning in saying that as a compromise we should go one mile North and the next mile West. There can be no compromise in regard to the direction to which we want to turn our face. Mr. Gandhi could not be oblivious to compromise on lines that fetter further progress and muzzle us in regard to future demands. There are certain positions in politics which call for from the leaders almost an oath not to depart from an irreducible minimum of mental rectitude, and Mr. Gandhi is looked up to very rightly as a man of rectitude all in all. In Mr. Tilak the country has had a patriot first and foremost, and a politician next, during a long time when the country has had too many politicians without patriotism. In Mr. Gandhi, on the other hand, we have more than a patriot, an apostle to whom the prophets of the world now worshipped as the founders of the creeds known by their names, might repair to catch glimpses of real human greatness even in so materialistic an age. In Mr. Tilak we find the hero as a patriot, in Mr. Gandhi—the HERO. Where he is a hero and where not, it will be idle to differentiate. For anything specific, self is necessary, is in fact indispensable. But "self" is a great circumscribing factor. It limits. Mr. Gandhi has worked the "self" out of his nature and he is therefore radiance that is not colored by " self." India has produced within our own memory men who have cast the "self" from them; the greatest example we can give of such a life is that of Sri Ram Krishna Paramahamsa. But the self-less Rama Krishna was "at rest" as it were. He was a great influence even at rest. But he was only at rest whereas Gandhi is "dynamic." "Dynamic," having inhaled the agony and the suffering of men and women, moved by the pathos of a social fabric which keeps them unhappy, and incapable of making themselves anything but miserable. His active interest even in politics is of that impersonal nature which has its roots in the immortal Gita and the Gospel of Christ. "Think not of the morrow" is the greatest economic doctrine ever propounded; but how few have understood its import! For, what is the "morrow" but another to-day! If we know what to do to-day, if we do rightly what should be done to-day, will not the morrow take care of itself? Such is the spirit that seems to me to underlie and inspire Mr. Gandhi's sense of moral, dynamic responsibility. How can we qualify by any descriptive epithet his heroism in living this doctrine as a Hindu alone can live a philosophic creed or a religious dogma?
When we come to Sir Subramanya Iyer, we come to much less rarefied atmosphere. An atmosphere which magnetises a vast community and lifts it out of mundane calculations and craven contentment, and frees it from a vicious bondage to perpetual distrust. Who can succeed in so revitalizing a task? Men like Tilak, who have made the penitentiary another home, sink deep in the public mind; but they fail at a crisis to fire the imagination with a sudden resolve to dare and stand together. They fill the mind with a sense of injustice endured by them on behalf of their country. That is a great service no doubt. But, their very suffering renders them incapable of suddenly revealing themselves as if under a flash light, when a great cause lies to be strangled, to give with a swift and peremptory wave of a bared, bony arm the mandate to proceed no further arid depart from the scene while all eyes gaze in astonishment amidst a breathless suspense. It reminds one of the classic lore of India where power on the physical plane stood strangely devitalised for wrong-doing in the presence of spiritual authority. A voice, a glance, a passing shadow of the latter has time and again arrested the descent of the blow that had been aimed by the mighty against the forlorn. Gladstone's voice against Turkish atrocities was not a political voice—nor was it a voice in the wilderness. But it fell upon a political people; and although it reverberated through two continents, it took a long time to be of avail on the plane of political happenings. That is the nearest approach of a parallel we can find from England where a political situation excited from one of her greatest men the wrath of a prophet. Many others might have felt as Gladstone, and many others might have found perhaps stronger words. But from him the words sounded like a doom. And why? Entirely because of the Man. Of course here, there have been no atrocities under British Rule as under the Turkish. There never were. But it is not atrocities alone that provoke men's passion. There are men and communities to whom no hurt less than the loss of a limb is a hurt. There are also others to whom clear abuse of authority under conditions that lead to the irresistible conclusion that a national injury is contemplated is sufficient to provoke their appearance as an embodiment of the sense of honor that feels betrayed if not outraged. Many may be provoked in this manner, but the provocation felt by one man more than by the others can and does alone arrest attention. If that man will not and does not feel provoked—at the right time, feeling his responsibility solely to a power within himself, as the agent of apropelling moral impulse,and actasan asthra of an unseen force, if he does not feel and act so—the wrong remains. It is not planning in secret by a band of young men in despair and revenge that will succeed where protests from citizens and the accredited organs of public opinion fail. For such planning becomes and is no more than a form of guilt; guilt has nowhere conquered wrong and oppression. It may at best make the authorities concerned more wary—but it does not convert them so as to make them realise that they have miscalculated the forces they have to deal with. It is not so much a case of right and wrong with the authorities as a case of success or failure of a policy. When their policy, however objectionable it may be, is opposed by a form of guilt, the authorities must feel bound to put down guilt in any form and for any purpose. So, reconsideration of the policy that has excited discontent is hampered by the resolution to stamp out a policy of guilty terrorism. At the same time, we have seen how the protests like those of an Indian public go unheeded. What is the remedy? The remedy lies in the moral consciousness of men esteemed by the Government and the country, men who have been honored by the rulers of the land, and who enjoy the esteem of the public. It is because these men have been overtaken by a moral turpitude, and look upon themselves as a race of human fairies afraid to tread the ground of their native land with a callous disregard of the moral responsibility that birth in a country imposes, — it is because of these men behaving as they do, that protests fail to achieve their object and discontent going underground forges remedies worse than the disease. Far be it from us to say that men should dispise the tokens of good will of Government. So long as Government does the duty of organised society, whether or not it is directly responsible to the people, it must be the source from which flow tokens of esteem for services to the state and the public. But every man who has been so honoured and rewarded ought to consider his moral responsibility to the cause of good government much greater than that of the man in the street. Much shall be expected of those who have more than the rest. If a man has the insignia of a knighthood, it is not to be condemned to the purpose of keeping him an adorned doll ever afterwards—a walking display of pieces of state jewellery lent for his life, along with the flashing brilliants of his own purchase, so aptly suggestive of an emasculating estimate of the obligations of citizenship. These ribbons are not meant for strangling one's manhood; on the other hand they must be regarded as emblems of manly distinction and higher leadership. It is this readiness to stand aloof from great issues with unconcern, because one has held a high office, or one has received a notable distinction, it is this that is the worst of our assets as a people. "How can I?" comes to them at every step —as though it is for purchasing one's servitude that Government honors a man. What a waste of loyalty to the country lies in the cart-load of titled humanity that India has to-day—which believes itself legally and morally estopped from being a power for good, an entity in the progress of the country. These men constitute in fact a species of "foreclosed" humanity, not liable to be redeemed by the country that owns them!If every one who has come by success in life would not consider that he holds that success in trust for the good of the country, to serve its highest interest at the hour of call, that all that falls to one's good luck or merit must be an asset to the country of his birth and that it will be a crime and a sin for him to disinherit it by ignoring its travails or better days and its trials at the present hour by burying his head in the affixes and prefixes to his name, then he is the greater enemy to the country than even the authorised or unauthorised wrong doers in public or in secret. For the first time in the history of India the one man who acted as though all he had from the Government were for the country, who acted as though he had invested in a bank to hand a cheque to a public benefaction, who behaved as one who in serving the Government did not part with his regard for the good repute of the Government, and who certain of obloquy from high quarters sprang forward to face the rulers with his past prestige and his present conviction—the first man to act in this manner in all India is Sir Subramanya Iyer. We do not forget the unforgettable Pherozesha Mehta, But he was at no time a servant of the Crown and the moral weight that attaches to high office in India and among Englishmen who deal with India was not present in his case. Furthermore, a lion among men as he was and although he never lacked for the fraction of a second in his whole life time courage to face any mortal howsoever high and vindicate his high sense of self-respect—he yet lacked to some extent faith in his countrymen. This lack of faith held him back from countenancing many things other popular leaders have studiedly encouraged, which he looked upon probably as dreams, if not shams. He no doubt never cared to enter into compromises,as he thought, of an unsound character either with Government or with his colleagues. He is believed to have deplored to the last day of his life the mistake of Gokhale in compromising on the question of special representation to Mahomedans. He was beside himself with fear and anger that Gokhale might again "spoil" the South African settlement by his readiness to compromise. He stalked out of the Legislative Council as a protest against the way in which a Revenue Bill was sought to be passed by the Bureaucracy, rejecting every representation on the people's side, a step which Gokhale would not have taken in the first instance perhaps, but which he followed tendering if not an apology an explanation of personal regret. Still Mehta was furious at such propositions as boycott, swadeshi, national education and passive resistance as a political programme—because of his lack of faith in the people. In this respect also Sir Subramanya Iyer is a contrast to Sir Pherozesha Mehta. Not that he is unaware of what Sir Pherozesha was aware, but that he takes the view not of a political leader, but the view of a spiritualised disciple of the Gita. The result is not for us, Praise and dispraise, success and failure are not for us. Our responsibility is to act whether others do or do not follow, we would have done our duty by our own action, has always been his faith and the spirit of his conduct. In his view that is the sum total of the reward to which we are entitled. This is the faith, the doctrine, the oulook, thef every day talk of the Vedantin, and Sir Subramanya Iyer's life is the life of a born Vedantin, in every respect—as a lawyer, as a judge, as a citizen, as a political leader. Let his faith in Vedanta depart to-morrow, he will become not an irreligious man, but a cold, calculating, sympathy-expressing, technically religious, conforming, careful man, ever regardful of his "position" and most solicitous of his "respectability." The spirit of the Vedantin is in his blood and it has been in every phase of his career asserting itself till at last he consciously came by his own nature as it were, after his retirement from the Bench. The Gospel of Vivekananda could have appealed to no one more strongly than it did to Sir Subramaniam when the Swamiji wasin Madras. Later on, when he plunged into Theosophical literature, it was in the way of research and inquiry. The result was he had undergone a schooling in which the performance of a duty took no thought of impediments and consequences. When to such a mn the hour of test came, it found him true to his creed; and hits titles, his exofficial position, his personal acquaintance with the high and the great, — none of these stood as an impediment. He flung them aside as a perspiring man casts off his superfluous clothes. They were all right in their own way, but not for suffocating the man so as to lose him his manhood, so as to make him a creature of gew-gaws and knick-knacks. With the intrepidity of a man who is to leap into a current, he made a summary mental disposal of them all. What belonged to him he realised was his wrinkled skin covering his frail bones—was that too much of a dedication to the land of his birth? Not so far as he was concerned. Be it success or failure, the time he thought had come to interpret in the spirit of the Vedanta the duty that had been accepted by him as the President of the Home Rule League, and it is this interpretation that makes him more than a South Indian worthy—a hero of the hour—rather the hero of the hour.
FROM SCHOOL TO COUNCIL
Between the celebration of Sir Subramanya Iyer's birthday on 2nd October 1917, at Adyar and the birth of his father in 1794, i.e., between the father, and the son of to-day a period of 123 years lies before us. It is a period that represents the practical growth of British Power from the stage of struggle for British ascendancy to the period of struggle of the people for Self-government under British paramountcy. The object of British Rule in India seems to have been undergoing accomplishment during all this time, as the result of numberless influences of every conceivable variety converging after all in what appears to be as natural a result as a plant bringing forth the expected fruit. In fact, if the immediate forbear of the subject of this sketch should appear to-day on the scene, although he might be astonished at a good many things, still, he will think nothing more natural than that power should return to the people themselves, the sovereignty of England being retained. Those were days when although the people felt the need for the consolidation of a strong, central power, to secure freedom from strife, they were as a fact much more accustomed to manage their affairs than we happen to be at the present day. Those who think and speak of British Rule as though it had always been by our side to keep us as a spoon-fed orphan left in the hands of a foreign matron, and stand aghast at the idea of our burdening ourselves with Self-government, have only to recall the state of Europe and England when the father was born and what it is to-day when the son submits his memorandum for the better government of India ! Then, Napoleon's first Consulate had not come into existence and ten years were yet to elapse for his becoming Emperor and shaking the peace of Europe as Wilhelm Kaiser alone has done after him. Now, the rule of the Romanofs has terminated and the Democracy of Russia is on the first adventurous voyage of most Democracies that overthrow Absolutism. In England at the time of the birth of the father, pocket-boroughs were in full prime, and thirty-five years had to elapse for cities like Manchester to obtain representation. Now, during the life time of the son, the House of Lords has passed into political sterility. In India, at that time, Tippu had not yet been overthrown and the British were still fighting for recognition as the paramount power, whereas to-day, an Indian Prince has taken part in the Imperial Council with the representatives of Overseas Dominions, and an Indian who had sat in the House where Burke had pleaded and protested on behalf of India has gone to his rest, having almost continued the work of Burke as a born native of this country. The name of another Indian has gone into the history of an enfranchised British Colony. Nevertheless, this vast period is between the birth of the father and the life-time of the son who is the subject of this narration. We have been, as English-educated" section, so much accustomed to measure time only by European events and Anglo-Indian achievements that these seem to have driven a wedge between our own period and that of our predecessors, and nothing seems to exist to our vision on the opposite side of the wedge.
Sir Subramanya Aiyar's father was a man of no mean powers of accomplishment in his own day in his native district of Madura. He was known by the name of "Suravally" "Whirlpool" Subbaiyar, an appellation in candid token of his ceaseless activities which showed the extraordinary power of devotion to any cause in which he was engaged, and the faith he had in himself. Born in 1794, he died in 1844 when Subramanya Aiyar, his last and third son was an infant, two years old. He was the Vakil of Ramnad Zemindar, Vakil in those days meaning not a legal practitioner but a kind of foreign minister for transacting business with the authorities of the East India Company. Every Ruler, and Zemindar and every great financier had his "Vakeel." Subbaiyar rendered signal services to the zemin at a time when its continuance and integrity were threatened and the old tradition, still surviving in the district, tells of his devotion to the cause of his master, regardless of insecurity of person and property of those days and with an intrepid courage which took no thought of possible personal risks. The integrity of Ramnad as a Zemindari: to-day, is due to his services more than to any other single circumstance, and it may be stated in passing that neither Subbaiyar nor the then Zemindar ever choose to think of themselves as Brahmins or non-Brahmins in the sphere of secular and civic functions that devolved on them as the leading men of the day of their native district. The present Zemindar of Kamnad, in keeping himself clear of caste bias and antagonism in matters of civic and political importance, worthily follows the traditions of his house.
After the death of his father, the care of the child fell upon the mother who survived her husband for a period of 55 years, and the care of the family fell on th eldest son of Subbaiyar, Ramasawmy Aiyar by name who rose to be the Huzur Sheristadar of the district. When young Subramaniem came up to the High School standard in his fourteenth year—he came under the influence of a European Principal of the New Zilla School just then started, Mr. William Williams to whom Sir Subramanya Iyer even to-day attributes his love of classical English prose works. Those were days of the Crimean War. Although illustrated journalism had not then advanced much, still there were a few illustrated journals which Mr. Williams on receiving his English Mail would spread on his table and explain the events as though he was by his own fire-side in the bosom of his family circle. It was this capacity to make intellectual companions of the young that the modern European staff totally disdain. Sir Subramaniem even to-day remembers how Mr. Williams would make English Grammar interesting with the help of examples from the speeches and writings of great Parliamentary worthies. For instance to show the difference in the use of a and the Mr. Williams would quote Fox's statement comparing Pitt with himself:—"I never wanted a word; Pitt never wanted the word" Subramaniem won a scholarship of Rs. 5 a month, then prize after prize, and passing an examination which had then been instituted by the name of the First Standard examination, had the pleasure of seeing his name in print,and that too in the Gazette. To be accurate, it was the Collector who noticed that a boy of Madura had passed creditably and on learning from the Sheristadar, who was no other than young Subramaniem's brother? he offered the boy of 17 a place in the Collectorate on a pay of 20 Rs. a month. He continued in this place with spells of long leave now and then, and with a sudden lift to a Tashildari for a brief period after he passed his B.L. in 1868. For nine years he divided his time in passing first a Pleadership test and then finding that it placed him absolutely at the mercy of the District Judge as the rules then stood, in passing his Matriculation, and F.A. in 1865 and 1866 by private study and his B.L. in 1868, also by private study, standing 1st in 2nd class. He followed up his success by an year of apprenticeship under an English Barrister Mr. Mills, Official Reporter, and settled down in Madura in the practice of his profession—with his professional independence secure from the high-handed interference of erratic Judges and Magistrates. Amongst the many suits at the earliest period of his legal practice two deserve prominent mention, one in which he was retained on behalf of the Ramnad Zemindary—continuing the work of his father in another sphere to that ancient Samasthanam, in the conduct of which the late Mr. J. D. Mayne as his senior found Subramaniya Aiyar quite capable of being left in sole charge of it upto the time of its trial in Madura. And the other was a temple suit in which the Dharmadhikaries of the Sri Meenakshi temple were sued to make good a large deficit of Rs. 40,000 and one of them was by the judgment of the Court ordered to refund the sum. Subramaniem was a Municipal Commissioner dnd a Devasthanam Committee member; and in this double capacity the city of Madura owes to him a number of lasting improvements and additions to the activities of the city and its attractiveness. By 1875 when King Edward as Prince of Wales visited Madura Subramanya Iyer, then only in his thirty-third year by which time a Mofussil Vakil now aspires to become a Munsiff somewhat late in his career, had become the leading non-official citizen of the town and was chosen to present the People's Address to the Royal visitor. To be chosen for so signal a distinction at such an early age shews the remarkable zeal and intelligence and earnestness which should have characterised his work and impressed the public and the authorities. The fact is, even at so early an age, he never fashioned his work on behalf of the public for the favour of the Government and his attitude towards the Government was dictated by considerations of the lasting good-will of the people. "Mani Iyer of Madura" as he was then called became as distinguished a citizen as one could name in the presidency and when in 1884 he was nominated a member of the Legislative Council he was the first representative Indian to take his seat in the Council, the first representative of the intellectual middle class of the country, who brought to the aid of the Government on a footing of dignified equality the contribution of the natural interpreters between the rulers and the ruled. In fact he was the first gleam of public spirit in the Legislative Chamber. The Hindu of the day under the ever memorable direction of Mr. G. Subramaniya Iyer commended his nomination in a sub-leader, not in a thanksgiving spirit of "Blessed be the name of the Lord"—but in that striking manner of public approbation of which Mr. G. Subramanya Iyer will ever remain so conspicuous a master. Its comment is worth producing as shewing the reason of the esteem in which Sir Subramanya Aiyar was held then and the manner in which nominations to the Council used to be made. Sir Subramanya Aiyar may well be regarded as the ancestor of the present non-official members who are his successors of the third descent At the time he was nominated, the principle of nomination underwent a slight change in that the selection came to be fromanornamental one to a utilitarian one.The next stage arrived with Lord Cross's Act and the third with Morley's reforms. It is esteemed a unique good fortune among Hindus, if an individual is alive to see his fourth lineal descendant born, and the fourth in decent to Sir Subramanya Aiyar's Council will be the one under the new Reforms—the Council of an autonomous India. How he has worked towards such an evolution stead-fastly and with unfailing loyalty and courage need not be narrated—at great length just in this place. But Mr. G. Subramanya Iyer's leader in the Hindu on his nomination shews how the constitution of the Council stood then Its observations ran as follows:—
"There is not another native gentleman in this presidency who understands the views and wishes of his countrymen and particularly the condition of the agricultural population, more thoroughly than the Hon. Mr. S. Subramanya Iyer, B. L., who takes the place of Mr. Gajapathi Rao in the local legislature... By his heridetary influence, his ability, character and public spirit, his name is very widely known in Southern India, Nor has he been known on a single instance to sacrifice public interest for his own. In almost every public movement his co-operation has been invited and readily given. It is in recognition, we believe, of his public spirit as much as his valuable service to his fellow citizens of Madura as the vice-president of the local municipality, that the Government has now invited Mr. Subramanya Iyer to join their legislative council. The appointment is of a kind altogether different from those that have been hitherto made. It shows that the days when the legislative council was openly treated as a sham are passed and that the remonstrance of the public against entrusting the responsible work of legislation to men of absolutely no qualification whatsoever, has come to be regarded as reasonable. The Hon. S. Subramanya Iyer is the first non-official member of the legislative council whom the public will be glad to recognise as a fair representative of themselves, and will be willing to leave their side of the question to be represented by him, so far of course, as one individual member can represent it. It will have to be remembered that his appointment is not, as in the case of some of his colleagues and predecessors, owing to his silks and satins or to the favour of the Secretariat; he owes his appointment to the high public estimation that he so deservedly enjoys."
Soon after his experience in the Council Sir Subramanya Aiyar was one of those who assisted at the birth of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in the Christmas week of 1885 under the presidency of W. C. Bannerjee supported by Dadabhai Naoroji and Hume. He related his experience of the Council in the following part of the speech which shews how the President of the Home Rule League of to-day viewed thirty-two years ago as an accepted popular representative of the people by the Government an arrangement in which the Executive was everything and the popular element nothing when it differed from the Executive. If Sir Subramanya Aiyar writes and speaks to-day so strongly as to be mistaken for a vehement critic of the Government, it is because for decades he has seen the inutility of expecting the Buraaucracy to divest itself of its irresponsible power. Then, he thought the position had only to be stated in all bonafides and that the statement would evoke a cordial response and co-operation from the custodians of power here, and that an era of successive progressive accomplishments ensuing from mutual respect and trust will dawn to the benefit of India as a trust of the British Crown. But he has seen time after time the Bureaucracy playing a game of obstruction and what else can he do before his hroice grows cold except be vehement in the expression of his innermost convictions on behalf of his motherland for which he has the love not simply of a patriotic citizen but of a man of faith in the great spiritual laws of his country? No man wants to see his country go to dogs, and when that country is what India is to a Hindu, let it be borne in mind that all his earthly loyalty is only a means for serving the cause of his country. It is this spirit that was manifest in Sir Subramanya Aiyar when he made his speech in the first session of the National Congress and it is this spirit that pervades the clarion call of his to his countrymen after a further experience of thirty years. The substance of that speech in his own words deserves to be reproduced here.
In seconding a resolution, moved by the late Mr. (subsequently Justice) Telang, Mr. Subramanya Iyer said:
"Though my connection with the Madras Legislative council has not been quite as long; as Mr. Telang's in Bombay—I have been only a year in it—I think I may fairly claim to have had sufficient experience of its working to enable me to form an opinion as to their utility. I should not fail to admit, however, that the actual working of these councils is enveloped in somewhat of a mystery and to one outside it, it is a puzzle how it is that the non-official members are so little able to do good of any kind.
It was not till I myself became a member of the Madras Legislative Council that I saw how unjustly our friends in the council were censured in the majority of instances and what little influence they possessed in the council either for good or for evil. With the best intentions in the world, I may assure you, gentlemen, they find themselves in the wrong place, and so long as the present constitution of these Councils remains unchanged it is idle to expect that these non-official members will prove of any great use to the country... If one carefully noted the successive laws that are enacted by these Councils, one would plainly see that the functions of these Councils are limited to registering the decrees of the executive Government and stamp them with legislative sanction... Every suggestion that I made was received with great consideration so long as it did not trench on the principle already determined upon by the government. So far as that goes, I must do the Government the justice to say that they are not only anxious to hear non-official opinion, but they also try to adopt it as far as possible, consistent with the principle of the measure. The drawback then as I just now pointed out, is that the principles of the measures that are introduced into the Councils are previously determined by the Government, behind the back of the Legislative Councils as it were, and the difficulty of the non-official members consists in their not being able to modify them in any manner."
In the Council, Subramanya Aiyar addressed himself to a measure of practical importance and placed on the statute book an Act for securing compensation according to market value for tenants* improvements in Malabar. Mr. Subramanya Aiyar's solid contribution on behalf of Malabar tenants will ever remain a monument testifying to his religious devotion to the interests of the poor as against the claims of the rich and the well-to-do. Later on as a Judge of the High Court he conferred a judicial charter of security of holding on the Zemindari raiyyat which was made subsequently the main principle of a legal enactment during the Governorship of Lord Ampthill—one of the best Governors Madras has had. Mr. Subramanya Iyer's services in this connection were acknowledged by Mr. G. S. Forbes the member in charge of the Madras Estates Land Bill of 1905. Adverting to the status of the Zemindari tenant the Hon. Mr. Forbes said:—"I do not know whether it is really necessary at this time of the day to enter upon any critical examination of the status of the Zemindar and the ryot, seeing that the whole question has been so lucidly discussed and the rights inherent in the status of both so clearly laid down in recent years in well known judgments by the High Court under the able guidance of those very distinguished Judges, Sir Muthusawmy Aiyer and Sir Subramanya Aiyer. These Judgments lay down in effect that qua the public cultivable land of the estate the Zemindar is not a landlord in the sense of the English landlord and tenant, nor the ryot a tenant, but the former is an assignee of the Government land revenue and that the latter possess the rights of occupancy indefeasible so long as he pays the. Zemindar's due. Nothing has strengthened the hands of the Government in prosecuting this legislation so much as the expositions of the law which these judges have from time to time given forth on the questions which are fundamental in this bill, and if this bill passes, it is a deep debt of gratitude that the agricultural population of this presidency will owe to the memory of Sir Muthuswamy Aiyar and to the labours of Sir Subramanya Aiyer." Lord Ampthill as President of the Council put the matter in the tersest manner possible by stating in his speech— "I have heard it said that the ryot of Southern India will never know how much he owes to Justice Sir Subramanya Aiyer for having declared that “the common law of Madras gives every ryot an occupancy right irrespective of the period of his holding.” It is this opinion which has been upheld in repeated declarations of Government which we wish to focuss and stereotype."
It should be made clear in this place that Mr. Subramanya Aiyar's fearless advocacy of the principle of occupancy right irrespective of the period of holding, which he entertained so strongly in favour of the Zemin,dari ryot was not confined to his benefit only. On the other hand Sir Subratnaniem declared himself in favour of the same principle in regard to the ryotwari holder so far back as 1886. In seconding a proposition moved by Mr. D. E. Wacha drawing attention to the increasing poverty of the country, Mr. Subramanya Aiyar said:—"I believe the history of the ryotwari administration has led to the conclusion that it is better to have a system of Zemindari administration with all its faults than the ryotwari system. It may be said that the Zemindars, in some cases, screw out every farthing that they can from their tenants; but the Zemindars as we have seen, can be reached by a Tenancy Act whereas in the presidency of Madras, it is impossible to control by any Tenancy Act the exactions of the Revenue authorities. I should like to see a Government servant on our side of India who is prepared to admit that the right of enhancement ought to be defined and limited by Legislative enactment as against the Government." Since then, he has never missed an opportunity to declare in the most unmistakable terms possible that without some kind of permanent ryotwari settlement, the condition of agriculturists in Southern India could never he improved.
FROM THE BAR TO THE BENCH
With the reputation he had created for himself both as a lawyer and public man, it was not to be expected that Mr. Subramaniya Aiyar would continue to stay in the mofussil, although it was such an important place as Madura. He transferred his "headquarters" to Madras in 1885 and found he had enough to do in addition to his professional work as a member of the Legislative Council, of the Senate of the University, of the Mahajana Sabha, and as one of the foremost leaders in all public movements. His work in the High Court on behalf of his clients was more in the nature of assistance rendered to the judges of the High Court in the administration of justice than in the nature of desperate, hard pleading, ingenious hair-splitting, or throwing legal dust in the eyes of the judges. Those who are competent to judge of him as an advocate have been struck with the moral fervour of his advocacy, which was not assumed for the nonce, but was so distinctly, a kind of second nature in him. He had of course the qualities of a born advocate, clearness of grasp, warmth of conviction, flow of language, and intellectual penetration.But these qualities alone do not and cannot endow an advocate with moral fervour. That comes of one's own mental and moral mould. The same facts and the same legal provisions in the custody of one lawyer may be utilised in an effective manner by him and to no purpose, entrusted to another. The way in which facts and arguments may be marshalled and a conviction produced may differ with the mental equipment and forensic training of each individual—but the most competent and successful of them may yet lack that iridescent glow which one could not help noticing when Sir Subramaniem is on his legs as a lawyer of a client or as an advocate of his country's cause. In other words, Sir Subramanya Aiyar infuses into his advocacy his own altruistic nature. Out of him the facts and statements, the arguments and the law applicable to them come with a clear mark of the personality in whom they have had their origin. In fact, he seems to be appealing to a higher nature than the one to which other lawyers and advocates seem to appeal, and relying on the inherent righteousness of his cause rather than the legal sanction it may have, he seems to enforce an opinion not for the sake of a client but for the sake of justice.
One may call this an art, a capacity, a witchery, or anything else one may please to term it, but there it was in him and it distinguished him above all the lawyers of his day, some of whom in mere "legal legerdemain" might have been more astute and painstaking than Subramaniem was. If this characteristic has been found in him only as a lawyer, it may be said that he was simulating for purposes of professional success a certain kind of superior sentimentality or sincerity. On the other hand, it has been with him in every other concern in which he has taken part. It was with him when as a young legal practitioner he took legal steps for the refund of Rs. 40,000 by a Trustee of the Madura Temple who had misappropriated it. It was with him when as a nominated member of the Legislative Council, he exposed the inutility of the constitution of these Councils at the earliest opportunity when he attended the first session of the National Congress. It was there when he decreed the occupancy right of the Zemindari tenant irrespective of the period of holding so long as the agreed rent was paid. It has been there in the statements he has made time after time that the ryot under the Government was worse off than the Zemindari tenant since no law could touch the Government's claim to enhance the assessment. It was there recently in a most striking and conspicuous manner when he replied in the press to the speech of Lord Pentland, throwing off all reserve, facing the Goverment as though he spurned to regard himself as a culprit hiding his most earnest convictions in secret.
In taking the risk of popular displeasure, he has been no less courageous. In the evidence that he volunteered to give in the case brought against Mrs. Besant in 1912 he did not mind the popular verdict so long as his own opinion ran counter to the popular view. But it is not in these matters alone which are so well known to the public that Sir Subramanya Aiyar has followed the bent of his mind, leaving it to the public and the Government to judge of him as they pleased. In one instance when personal feelings ran high, accentuated to some extent by "caste feelings" and when the parties on one side happened to be his personal friends and followers, he loftily stood aloof from the contest which went to a court of law, against all pressure from the former as a procedure that could find no response in him. To anything in the nature of personal unpopularity with an intimate circle of friends, or a larger public he has willingly submitted himself instead of proving false to his own personal opinions. He could not be one kind of individual in dealing with the authorities, another in dealing with the public and a third with a circle of personal admirers. He cared for no kind of stage effect, and could give no kind of implied or explicit undertaking pre-judicial to his convictions. Such a man in the profession of law is bound to rise to a level of his own and secure the respect of the Bench. He was appointed to act as Government Pleader in 1888 and there also while he made a great reputation for efficiency and trustworthiness, he kept himself clear of the least suspicion of improving his chances by entertaining any kind of executive bias, or by adopting a course of refined sycophancy, or any kind of conduct unworthy of public disclosure. In those early days of the Congress especially between 1887 and 1895 when he was raised to the Bench permanently, he was in closest contact with the Hindu and its stalwart conductors Messrs. G. Subramanya Iyer and M. Viraraghavachariar, and with the Mahajana Sabha, which was the premier political association in the Presidency. Yet, he enjoyed the confidence of the Government in no stinted measure. The Government knew that his advice would be sincere and honest, and the public knew that it would be patriotic and honorable and would stand the test of public knowledge. In this respect, of not losing the confidence of one party for gaining the confidence of the other, among men of distinction in India his is one of the five names that would be universally accepted, namely, Dadabhai Naoroji, M. G. Banade, Pherozesha Mehta and Gandhi. Men like Tilak and Lajput Rai have been of course beyond the pale of Executive confidence. Other distinguished men in spite of their meritorious service in one direction or another fell into a thermometer which shewed a double reading, if not uniformly, at critical times at any rate. This distinguishing feature in Sir Subramanya Iyer's character is well brought out in the Editorial comment of the Hindu of those days when in 1891 Mr. Subramaniem was first appointed to act as a judge of the High Court in place of Sir T, Muthusawmy Iyer.
There was not then, nor is there now, in the PublicService or attheBar another Muthusamy Iyer to succeed the great man. Not a lawyer, but a law giver, not simply a great judge but an equally eminent jurist, Muthusamy Iyer sat on the Bench as an emblem of Justice personified, patient, farseeing, riveted to the facts, intent upon the law, with fear and reverence holding fast the sceptre of justice, ever mindful not of the office or of its dignity, but of the weight of its responsibility—with the faith of a man who has to render an account of the slightest miscarriage before the Throne of Him who judges the earthly judge and culprit alike. Sir Muthusawmy Iyer was known as a model of humility not in the presence of Europeans only as so many of our high placed countrymen in and out of office are, but even before the latest "native" recruit to the office of a Munsiff of the last grade. It was not an inducted virtue in his case. That humility grew out of his greatness. But exemplary as he was in being so considerate as to be regarded as almost meek, in unblemished judicialjrectitude, and unapproachable judicial independence, in the scrupulous disregard of all extraneous considerations that would deflect him from the course of justice undefiled, he was like an upright flame that bore evidence from Earth to Heaven. The Executive found in him a model of personal respect, but found that as a judge they had to be content to stand at a distance from him, since as they approached him, they lacked the atmosphere that was necessary for taking one's breath. When they were face to face with him in his capacity as a judge, they found they were in a vacuum where they could hardly breathe, and were glad to be away from the place. His incessant care and concern on the Bench was not to be over-reached by legal ingenuity on the one hand or to be biassed unconsciously by taking even a cursory cognizance of the susceptibilities of the Executive on the other. When the experiment of having an Indian as a judge of the High Court was first embarked upon in 1877, long after Bengal and Bombay had obtained the privilege, as the result of the courageous impartiality of the then Governor, the Duke of Buckingham, the second "glorious little man" who has come out of England to India, little did the authorities or the public of that day think that the first Indian appointed to the place would even after a lapse of forty years remain the best judge by far and away appointed since then. To such a man to find a successor was difficult, bufc the option of the Government anticipated the verdict of the public in the appointment of Mr. Subramaniem to a temporary vacancy caused by the illness of Sir T. Muthusawmy Iyer. The Hindu wrote of the appointment as follows:—
"There is not another Hindu gentleman in this presidency in whom the community has greater confidence or who has more endeared himself to it not merely by his attainments, a highly engaging manner, but by invaluable service he has rendered to it. He is perhaps the only instance known for many years of a Hindu gentleman who has won the confidence of the Government as well as the public. Mr. Subramanya Iyer was appointed by Sir M. E. Grant Duff for the first time as a member of the Legislative Council in which position he made himself so useful to Government in its Legislative business that for the first time Government learnt that an Indian gentleman could be more than a figure head in the council and that by associating Indian gentlemen with itself in this important and onerous work, it conferred no particular obligation on anybody but was seeking valuable and indispensable help in the discharge of its duty. The service that was thus rendered by Mr. Subramanya Iyer was so much appreciated by Government and his great merits as an advocate and lawyer commended themselves so strongly to the High Court that when the place of Government Pleader fell temporarily vacant the place was offered to him ; and indeed in this fresh sphere of duty he shewed such thorough conscientiousness and assiduity that at the end of his acting term he was warmly eulogised by the High Court. Imbued with a high sense of duty, ever anxious to do good, highly cultured, modest and sometimes diffident, Mr. Subramanya Iyer has filled no position in which he has not won fresh confidence and distinction and has not displayed to advantage the great and rare qualities of his head and heart. Government as well as the public have repeatedly and in different ways testified to the regard and trust that he has always inspired. In addition to responsible and honored offices, titular distinctions have been conferred in him and deserved better by none. Mr. Subramanya Iyer is not one of those unhappy and conscience smitten men who believe and act in the spirit that to secure the confidence of Government they should keep aloof from all public unofficial movements and poison the ears of the high placed officiate against those work for public good according to their lights and opportunities."
In 1895, when the vacancy became permanent by the lamented death of Sir T. Muthusawmy Iyer, Mr. Subramanya Iyer's appointment was taken for granted by the public, and it would have been a rude disappointment indeed had his name been passed over. During the time he held the high office from 1895 to 1907, besides decreeing the occupancy right of the Zemindari tenant, Mr. Subramanya Iyer did a great deal towards restoring to the women of the Madras Presidency a far higher legal status than the English Judges with their narrower notions of woman's proprietory rights derived from English Law were inclined to do. Whenever occasion arose, he enlarged the sphere of woman's authority under ancient Law, whether the question was in regard to her capacity to hold property, in regard to the interpretation of the term Sridhanam, in regard to her right to treat what became vested in her—as her "own property, not limited, but absolute, exclusive and separate in every sense and devolving as such or in regard to her rights of adoption." In all these issues Sir Subramanya Iyer's decision weighed in favour of the rights of woman in accordance with equity and justice and was calculated to raise her status from the footing of a dependant to a footing of equality, as far as the circumstances of the case would permit. He did not depart from the spirit of the Hindu Law so as to destroy the identity of the structure of Hindu Society in any of these decisions, but when the question arose whether a woman's right was to be extended from acertain point to its logical sequence, he did not hesitate for a moment from the admission that ancient Law in spirit was not against such extension.
Owing to a persistent trouble in his eyes Sir Subramanya Iyer had to retire from the Bench eight months before the full period to entitle him to the maximum pension of a High Court Judge. Had he continued in service for this very short time he would not have had to forgo Rs. 5,000 per annum after nearly eleven years service on the Bench. In fact Sir Arthur Lawley felt the rigour of the technical requirement of the rules and would have cheerfully permitted Sir Subramaniem any latitude if he could have continued as a judge, doing such work as he could have done without positive injury to his eyes. His colleagues on the Bench and the Chief Justice would have suited themselves to his convenience with pleasure and with a sense of loyalty to one so uniformly esteemed by them. But Sir Subramaniem felt that he could not escape the imputation of one who stuck to an office to avoid pecuniary loss while he was not physically competent to discharge its duties. He knew that whether the imputation would be made or not, he would deserve it and in any case he could not escape it from himself. The very consciousness of keeping himself glued to a seat, lest he should have to forgo a part of his annuity should have reduced him to a mental plight from which he would have revolted despite the strongest inducements to stay on from friends, and followers. But in retiring under these circumstances, he won in fact the esteem of the public even in laying down his office as he had won it in making himself eligible for the place and in fulfilling the expectations of the public while continuing in it.
He felt he had done with the secular side of his life after the 65th year, and after recovering from acute trouble on account of the complaint in the eye, he threw himself into work on the religious side. The formation of a Parishad for interesting the Hindu orthodoxy in social and religious questions and the institution of the Dharma Rakshana Sabha for securing better management of temples, Mutts and religious, charitable trusts were his work in the way of organisation. The issue of books in the Suddha Dharma Mandal series was Ms work in the w,ay of diffusing a religious literature—bringing home to the English knowing Hindu section of the community—the treasures which would lie hidden from their view if not made familiar to them with the help of the English language. During all this time he was undergoing his psychic practices and with the help of competent Pundits he was finding his way into rather abstruse realms of Hindu Philosophy. Religion and Philosophy had always a strong attraction to Sir Subramaniem from so far back as 1882. In fact his fight of the Temple trustees soon after his enrolment as a Vakil was but an outward indication of the inherent reverence for religion in him. He was a devotee in every sense of the word, but a devotee who strove to go underneath forms rituals and symbols. However, he at no time despised forms—as being no more than forms—for he knew well that forms are necessary; at the same time he was not content with forms alone. Nor was he averse to recognising merit where form had been deliberately discarded by competent persons for worthy purposes.
Always of an enquiring spirit, his love of psychic research had free scope after he obtained freedom from secular occupations. A Theosophist from 1882, he was in the field much earlier than Mrs. Besant, having read Madame Blavatsky's works,and satisfied himself that the principles of Theosophy in no way clashed with his faith as a Hindu, and that it might possibly be of help to his understanding Hinduism somewhat better for his being an "English-educated" Hindu. Even in Theosophy what has appealed to him most is that side of it which deals with the Nature of Man as a being capable of spiritual development and the steps by which he comes to understand his limitations and the means of gradual illumination of his footsteps as he tries to leave those limitations one by one behind him. These subjects have a fascination for Sir Subramaniem beyond everything else, and he is as trustful as a child in seeking enlightenment on such problems. People have wondered at his loyalty to Mrs. Besant, thinking that he is led by the nose by a masterful lady of enticing eloquence and that he surrenders his discretion anticipating her wishes. Nothing can be a grosser or less informed interpretation of his true nature. He has looked upon Mrs. Besant as a fellow-worker in a field which to him means the field of final salvation individually. She is a foreigner and took to Theosophy as a mere accident when she happened to review the monumental work of Madame Blavatsky. She could not have been predisposed in its favour—so uncompromising an agnostic as she was. When such a woman became a Theosophist some years after he had become one certainly one must expect a man like Sir Subramaniem to shew her the utmost consideration and regard as a most welcome fellow-worker for the good of the country as well as of humanity. Sir Subramaniem's faith in Theosophic doctrines was strengthened at one time not by any European, but by an Indian Theosophist, a man well and deeply read in Western Science and Philosophy, and with a keen analytical perception of the merits of Hindu psychic Injunctions, the late Mr. T. Subba Row who died in 1890 and when he was only 33 and deeply deplored by all sections of the public. A man of vast powers of intellect, of transparent sincerity and perfect equanimity of mind, it is to Mr. Subba Row that Sir Subramanya Iyer even to-day confesses his acknowledgment for his faith in Theosophy. When after the loss he sustained in Subba Row's death, he had the good fortune to become an associate with so remarkable a lady as Mrs. Besant, nothing can be more natural than that he should appear as her associate in all matters of moment affecting the country or the future of Theosophy as even in being Theosophic, he has been only patriotic. Had the late Charles Bradlaugh embraced Theosophy as Mrs. Besant his colleague did, he could have found no more staunch friend to stand by him than Sir Subramaniem. What it is that he exactly values in Theosophy not found in Hinduism is not a matter that can be easily described, but if he finds in Theosophy all that he finds in the essence of Hinduism, as a good Hindu, he cannot but be a good Theosophist as well. Others may not care to go out of their own religion to find anything valuable in Theosophy. But if one does it, he need not be considered to have lost his individuality thereby or to have even merged it in that of another. Rather, he contributes his own individuality to it. We have had to refer to this subject, because Sir Subramanya Iyer's devotion to Theosophy has been regarded as emanating from a kind of external influence exercised over him. On the other hand it is the outcome of his spontaneous, and long cherished deeply rooted conviction that the principles of Theosophy if followed are calculated to make for a higher type of the individual and a better conduct in the discharge of obligations. If some Theosophists are not the better for it, that need not detract from the testimony of one who feels convinced in. all conscience that he has been undoubtedly the better for it. And as in everything else, Sir Subramaniem's devotion to Theosophy has stood firm finding it worthy of his constancy just as he has stood firm in other obligations he incurred with a free, open and critical mind. When he became Chairman of the Congress Reception Committee of 1914, it was as though he had taken a fortnight's holiday from his religious and Theosophic routine, for he had undergone a transition from secular to religious life. In 1915 when he became Honorary President of the Home Rule League it was on the understanding that he was not to be expected to do active work that he connected himself with the organization as a matter of his earnest sympathy with the movement. In 1916 when the Press Act was applied to "New India," Sir Subramaniem, convinced that the object of the Executive attack on New India was to handicap it as a Home Rule organ, came forward to signify his protest against the application of the Act to the paper. In 1917 when Lord Pentland's speech of 22nd May threatened action against Mrs. Besant, he it was that replied to Lord Pentland's call for public co-operation with an unconcealed earnestness that shewed at once that if the Government proceeded to take arbitrary action against Mrs. Besant he for one would not quail from all constitutional remedies open to him to get that action reversed. If the Governor had read that letter to purpose, and if he had known what kind of man it was who wrote it and how he had come by the influence he exercised, the Press Communique that was issued by the Governor would not have been what it was. On the other hand taking his copnsel, if he took any at all, of men who had no part in the public life of the presidency since the Congress was started, i.e. of people who had remained strangers to the world outside their residence during an entire period of political transformation, in other words of men who had remained political babies in fact, he ignored the protest that by a reflex action as it were proceeded from Sir Subramanya Iyer. Lord Pentland did not know that when he was thirty he took the risk of ridicule and unpopularity by suing the Temple trustees of his own place; that his nomination to the Legislative Council during the more irresponsible regime of Sir M. E. Grant Duff did not prevent him even during his tenure from pricking the bubble-constitution of the Council—which no nominated member to-day will consent to do unless he has entered by an open vow of renunciation a political seminary for the rest of his life. He did not know how Mr. Subramaniem's appointment as a Judge was welcomed as a vindication of the policy of finding merit in the bonafide critics of Government and not as a reward for past and future subserviency. He did not know that Sir Subramaniem was not a man of such "consequence" as to speak one word in the ear of confiding authority and a plaintive period to the anticipated applause of a public audience. He preferred other men to be spoken to for about 60 minutes, specially sent for to the giddy heights and from there to be entrained down the valleys to the hot and indignant plains below, to keep unruffled in the sight of an agitated public when the hour demanded a fearless sounding of the gong of public liberty. There are men who come by the esteem of the authorities only, men who possess the regard of the public alone, and a few who are esteemed by both Government and the people. To what class did the men of whom Lord Pentland took counsel belong? If he thought that they enjoyed the confidence of the public, it is time that he discloses their names so that he may say "here are the men who approved of my intentions, and if these intentions were wrong, the fault is not mine, but theirs." Public life in Madras would get purified if his Lordship would condescend to do so much reparation at last. First, influenced by a circular of the Government of India whose contents we do not know, secondly helped by a council all of whose members became officials when they became majors, and have grown, notwithstanding their perpetual infancy in politics, political advisers to the head of a province, and last of all encouraged by the misleading prognostications as those of Macbeth's witches, and the flaunting ill advised bravado of journalistic schism-mongers, the Government treated Sir Subramaniem's reply to Lord Pentland as the impetuous manifestation of his fanaticism for Theosophy! Had he not been a Theosophist at any time, we dare say that his letter might have carried greater consideration than it did. But was it to go in vain, simply because he was a Theosophist? When some Local authorities wanted "Mr. Mani Iyer" as he was then called to give the cold shoulder to Lord Ripon's Local Self-government scheme, he took it up as a matter for active propagandist work. If there had been a hint to him in 1884—during the regime of one who was facile princeps in making his charge a home for administrative scandals, that his nomination was to impose upon him allegiance to the defects and drawbacks, the mistakes and blunders of Government, he would have respectfully declined it as a task beyond his powers. But under Lord Pentland's Government his letter which enunciated the freedom of the subject under the British Crown fell for the time on indifferent ears and the Press Communique of the Governor was the last word—followed by action—the orders of internment. This was on June 16th. From that date to 5tb September for 65 days, Sir Subramaniem became the soul of what may be called a Liberation movement. The meetings at which he presided, the letters he wrote to the press, the calls he received at home, the proceedings of numberless gatherings in the mofussil with which he kept himself in intimate touch, the immense volume of correspondence he had to attend to, the distribution of funds which he had to supervise need not be detailed here. But—all these in his 77th year, with both his eyes incapable of making out his own signature or the place where he should affix it, with physical drawbacks partly due to infirmities of age and partly congenital! Requiring the kindly help of some one else at every physical step of his, incapable of reaching with his hand an object at his elbow, liable to be affected by the slightest vagaries of the weather, he yet bore with work which two men of half his age would have found too great a strain to go through day after day, and hour after hour—barring the very late hours of the evening. His letters from abroad in English, Tamil and Telugu from men, women and youngsters had all of them to be read out to him and his reply in his own words communicated to each. He was always accessible to all men with all kinds of suggestions and proposals and requests and requisitions. He had electrified the atmosphere and transformed the face of South India in the space of a fortnight. The wisest thing that Mrs. Besant did when she started the Home Rule League was to make Sir Subramaniem the Honorary President, — i.e., a President without having to render the services of a President. But even her moments of unerring imagination could not have disclosed to her that, with the defacto president of the League disabled to carry on her work by a fiat of the Executive, the "Honorary" President would step into the breach and fight her battle, rather the battle of the country, as though the whole period of 65 days constituted but a single hour of determined resistance to the claims of the Executive to dispose off the liberties of British subjects as they did. His action evoked an immediate and splendid response. Mr. O. Vijayaraghavachariar of Salem whom Mrs. Besant had injured unwittingly in her ardour to support the present President of the Servants of India Society in his election to the Imperial Legislative Council, under the supposition that Mr. Vijayaraghavachariar was less patriotic because he did not come into any scheme of party politics, men like Mr. Vijayaraghavachar made it clear that they looked upon the action of the Government as a catastrophic mistake. One who has all along with innate aversion fought shy of personalities, of any kind, Dewan Bahadur M. O. Parthasarathy Aiyangar who could have easily found his place on the High Court Bench if he had chosen to come up to the expectation of the Executive as a District Judge during the memorable days of the Unrest of 1907, but who, without a pang and with a winning smile of satisfiedconscience welcomed his supersession just as he accepted his promotion to the District judgeship with a courteous bow, felt impelled to write with his Identity thrown open to the public asking why a titled citizen who had held a high place—won by public agitation for three decades—why he kept a sealed mouth as regards the action of the Government, when the harness of office was no longer on, him. That question put through the columns of the Hindu, dedicated from its commencement to national service and ever winning new laurels in it, remains unanswered still. But it shewed the temper of those whose opinion ought to have carried weight with Lord Pentland, had he not been so woefully misguided by men who were near if not dear to him. Dewan Bahadur V. K. Ramanujachariar, another public servant who has retired after an honourable record of service,—none too highly appreciated by a Government which has a separate measure for the worth of an Indian in service,—came forward to make his confession following the footsteps of Sir Subramaniem; and, in the crusty spirit of men of action of a bye-gone age, keeping his chin unshaven and holding it at an angle of opposition, was to the fore not so much to put heart into the country as to counteract a policy of suppressing the attitude of the public from the knowledge of the more responsible authorities. Even then the Madras Government failed to read the signs of the times, and would not think of a feat of honourable retreat at its own initiative. On the other hand, it stood by and gazed on petty attempts at strengthening the policy of repression by securing signatures of men who have never counted as a force for progress and who, leading a life of self-sufficient isolation, have found in the handshake of a European official the beatitude of earthly existence. It gazed on petty prosecutions of those who put up "flags"—as though these flags were a standard of revolt against the Crown of India. Like the fanatical Vishnavite lady who began purifying the place where a Saivite had sat in her house and unconsciously uttered the name of Siva, and thereafter falling a victim to the malicious humour of the follower of the Trident, who cried out "Siva to the pial, Siva to the pillar and Siva to your head" poured a thick and copious solution of cow-dung on all these objects not excluding herself—like this sectarian fanatical "female"—wherever a piece of bambo with a red and green cloth tied to it was hoisted, the zealous loyalists, ready to profit by timely service, pounced upon the occasion as though they were putting to route a Turkish contingent that had made its way from Mesopotamia into the thick of the southern presidency. These were the ways and means by which the political atmosphere had become unnaturally beated and the Madras Government, without moving its small finger against these endless oddities of the official and pro-official world, seemed in fact to believe that it was all "business as usual." When administrators and officials with power of patronage and power of prosecution and trial in their hands become politicians, and make use of their powers and opportunities for purposes of political effect, no Government can fail to reach the bottom of its prestige. Lord Pentland might have been told that like Dr. Faustus Dr. Subramaniem had sold his soul, not to the evil one, but to Mrs. Besant. Did he care to have a talk with him if it was really so instead of believing all that he heard? And be it borne in mind that Sir Subramaniem had acted thrice as the Chief Justice of Madras and had read the Peoples' Welcome Address to two Heir Apparents to the Throne! Well, let us alone Sir Subramaniem. Salem Vijayaraghavachar is neither a Theosophist nor a member of the Home Rule League. He had been long in the Local Council; he had been in the last session in the Imperial Council. He is a seasoned hero, a granite column of true independence, against which the Executive and party-manipulators in the name of the "Nation" may alike knock their heads to move it from its adherence to unblemished political principles, held with an utter disregard of what the manipulators or the executive may say of him. When he spoke against the action of the Executive, did Lord Pentland think there might be opinion worth having outside a charmed circle? There was another man who had openly resented being called a convert to Home Rule, Mr. V. P. Madhava Row, C.I.E. not a party-politician, but a believer in popularising the bases of Government, whose title to be consulted in such questions of policy cannot be impugned on any tenable ground. Could he not have been asked about all that had been set on foot? At what stage, before being asked to reverse their order by the Government of India, did the Madras Government reconsider their policy? A mistake is not the worst thing that a Government could commit; for, all Governments are liable to it, and more so a Government with the limitations and temptations of the Indian Bureaucracy. But to fail to see the mistake, in spite of clearest proof, is certainly a circumstance that makes a reputation for incapacity to cope with the problem of a growing feeling of nationality, by no means inimical to British Ascendancy. And this persistance in this mistake was shared by the Government of India also! They did not interfere until their attention was drawn to it by a Radical Secretary of State—who succeeded to the office vacated by a conservative nerveless politician under whose general sanction the measures had been taken.
All these Sir Subramaniem foresaw excepting the change at the India office and the reversal of the mistake in consequence of it. After the internment, he was certain that the step could not have been taken without the warrant of the Government of India and the approval of the Secretary of State. All protests seemed like a howl in a desert. It was even doubted whether they would be permitted to reach the Prime Minister—when inland telegrams were held up in this very country. There were many who believed that it was a policy of jam and cane, of repression and enlargement of liberties hand in hand, and that the cane had been first applied to obtain silence during f the time the jam was to be distributed. That meant of course that at the end of the War the jam would be produced and till then the cane was to be in operation. Morley at any rate at every breath said that the jam was getting ready and was known to be caning the authorities to avoid delay in producing the jam. But here in this case the jam was to become visible not before the conclusion of the War—and, when the War would end and what kind of jam it was to be when the War ended, no one knew; but those who cried for it before would be caned one after another and sent to bed. Sir Subramaniem, knowing how the situation stood and least anticipating the part of Providence in the affairs of men, fell back upon the injunction of the Gita that the result was for God and that his part was only to act with clear conscience and undaunted constancy. By shewing himself to the risk of displeasure of the authorities, he gathered round the movement for liberation a force that gained in volume and intensity day by day. But he did this, not awaiting any suggestion from Mrs. Besant, because to think that as Honorary President of the Home Rule League, he would have needed any appeal from Mrs. Besant is to be ignorant of the entire nature of the man and. his whole career. It is wrongly believed in some quarters that he wrote a letter to the American Public and the President of the United States at the instigation of Mrs. Besant, or at a message communicated to him by her to that effect. The facts of the incident are that Mr. Hotchener, a journalist of repute in America had been staying here with his wife, a talented lady—both of them Theosophists and in deep and earnest sympathy with the political aspirations of India. When Sir Subramaniem happened to meet them, during the political turmoil that had been created, at a periodical Theosophic function at Adyar—in the conversation that ensued, the idea almost like spontaneous combustion flashed that Mr. Hotchener might do something to rouse public interest in his own country towards the Indian situation which had come to be overtaken by such a dark cloud. It must be borne in mind that Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Chelmsford and Lord Pentland were all practically rowing together;and unless a change was decreed over the heads of all these three, there was not likely to be a difference. Well, they were of course not going to have a single constitutional remedy untried in India. But constitutional agitation in India would derive not a little strength by the friendly American nation expressing its sympathy with the Indian people in its efforts for national betterment. If any country needs sympathy from all quarters it is India more than any other. Was there anything wrong in asking for the sympathy of America—our Allies in the War, an English speaking race, a Democracy pledged to the ideal of peace and expansion of popular liberities. Nor was it as a perpetual policy in a permanent scheme of Indian agitation, but for the purpose of riveting the attention of the British nation to the wrongs endured by India at the discretion of the Bureaucracy at a great critics. Mr. and Mrs. Hotchener would carry the message and why should not the cause of India receive some perfectly legitimate accession of strength by the sympathy of the American public? Were the lady and gentlemen such as to compromise our position by the complexion of their politics? Not so far as he knew. Pacifists and progressives to the core, people who set little store by national or individual selfishness, inspired and upheld by the sentiment that to do unto others as you would be done by is a golden international law,—they were helpers in every good cause by an appeal to the higher nature in man. Sir Subramaniem did not of course discuss step by step; but talking to them when there was little to hope for from the authorities he concluded that it was his duty to avail himself of their instrumentality to send a message through them of India's loyalty to the British Crown, of its readiness to furnish even a million men for the War, and of its demand to be allowed to control its home affairs as every people ought to be allowed according to the admissions of the United British Nation and all its allies. He said that the Bureaucracy would not listen to such a demand, and the sympathy of the American people would go a great way in obtaining a more responsive attitude from their kinsmen and allies across the Atlantic. He dictated the letter and wanted to make it an open, responsible official communication to the President, so that the President might officially consider it as representing a great nation in alliance with England and with every good cause. The letter might have been cast in a different way; it might have been worded differently in some places or throughout; but in the fact of appealing for sympathy there is no ; betrayal of our obligations to the British Crown, and there was absolutely no hitting below the belt. So long as the world is governed by the moral force of public opinion as well as by physical strength, in invoking the moral aid of friends of England, there is no moral or political obloquy.
Of course, we cannot expect such transcendental disregard of expediency of every leader, but we need not be so weak-kneed and weak-visioned as to complain that it is too bright—improperly bright for the vision of all and sundry. The letters were taken, the letters were delivered. It has transpired that the letter to the President was handed over by him to the British Ambassador who in his turn is said to have forwarded it to the Prime Minster. But that the cancellation of the internments could not have been due to this letter is quite evident. Mr. and Mrs. Hotchener left Madras about the end of June, 25th probably. The internments were agreed to be cancelled on 5th September. But by 20th August, Mr. Montague's announcement and course of action had been determind upon. So, it is clear this communication had no share in effecting a change. However, the incident is pregrant with lesson to shew to what extent confidence had been shaken by the action of the Bureancracy. The incident is referred to here, only because wrong versions of it have been in circulation. It has been said that Mr. Hotchener is Mrs. Besant's son-in-law; that it was at Mrs. Besant's pressure that Sir Subramaniem with great reluctance, and after refusing to comply with the suggestion, ultimately succumbed to mandates from Mrs. Besant, having no option. All these versions are completely wrong. Of course, one is free to hold that Sir Subramaniem did wrong or right in dictating such a message. There are people who believe that he was wrong in accepting the Honorary Presidentship of the Home Rule League; there are others that believe he was crazy in becoming Vice-President of the Theosophical Society, others who hold that in founding the Dharma Rakshana Sabha he has been trying to alter a kind of second nature with the help of Law and through a Registered Association, others again that in spending part of his time, energy and means in issuing the publications of the Sudda Dharma series he has been helping the disease of religio-mania—from which the country has suffered rather a little too much already. Every one of these classes of men is entitled to the freedom of its opinion. But whether one is "right or wrong" in doing any of these it is worse than idle to dispute about. For we lack a common standard of judgment—there is no rod to measure and no scale to weigh in such matters. The important test in all these matters is "what for does he do these and how will they affect the country's interests ultimately?" Does or did he do any of them for personal glory or gain, or to injure a cause or community, or to uproot order and law, or has his action tended to stifle public spirit, throw back the country's progress and to leave his countrymen worse? He dictated that message without even intending that it should be known or that he should be given credit for it; and he did it in the service of the country to strengthen the cause of the British Crown in India. As for the result, although he has entitled himself to the fullest measure of executive displeasure, it must open the eyes of the Government as nothing else possibly can. It must show them that they will be in an unwise paradise to believe that India can always remain enveloped in Anglo-Indian beneficence. There is no means of ascertaining in what way the letter influenced the heart and judgement of the American public—it is reasonable to infer that it would have in no case prejudiced India. About the "political side" of it, differences may be felt, but Sir Subramanya Iyer would not have been himself if he had failed to utilise Mr. and Mrs. Hotcheners, return to their country for a little sympathy to India from their countrymen so as to make the eyes of England turn towards this land at a time when in her preoccupation the Bureaucracy had taken in hand the destiny of India so as to say that we should put out of thought to their dictation most dearly cherished hopes of having a voice in our own country. However, when the Governor-General and Mr. Montagu came to Madras it was on this letter that Lord Chelmsford fastened himself the moment Sir Subramaniem stepped into the room. For about a week previous to the interview Sir Subramaniem had been bed-ridden by an acute trouble of an old-standing complaint. He had been harassed and enfeebled by it and he had worked at high pressure in submitting four Memorandums anent the Reform Scheme. For a man to do all these with his infirmities and deprived of his sight must be an incredible feat indeed. He had made no secret of his adherence to passive resistance if necassary when that question was discussed in the last week of August during the Special Provincial Conference in Madras. His reply to the Manifesto against passive resistance is a masterly verdict delivered in a perfectly judicial frame of mind and would for a long time to come occupy a permanent place in the political master-pieces of talented Indians of age, experience, and a magnificent record of work on behalf of the Government and the people. Lord Chelmsford, apparently without a previous personal knowledge of Sir Subramanya Iyer, and not knowing that he had left the bed of an invalid to be at the interview, and when Sir Subramanyam had gone to submit his views on the Reform Scheme least suspecting that the interview would turn upon the letter, opened fire on this topic. He is reported to have done it in a spirited way, and Sir Subramaniem flashed back in an equally excited manner. In Sir Subramaniem's own words, it was "a stormy interview." Loud was the voice of both. Put on his defence, Sir Subramaniem came out of it caring only for his innermost convictions and making it plain to the Viceroy to what extent the Madras Government had gone wrong in their policy of alienating the confidence and attachment of men honored by their predecessors and esteemed by the people. It may probably be thought by some that Sir Subramaniya Iyer might have declined to enter into the topic on the ground that he was there to be interviewed on the Memorandums. But that would be liable to be considered not only grossly improper but taking refuge in a circumstance of an entirely technical kind, instead of saying what he had to say in vindication. His is not the nature to hold back, to prevaricate or make amends for what is right in a mood of enforced penitence suddenly convinced of the impropriety of a thing in the presence of high authority. Being incapable of any of these, he defended the step he had taken by a portrayal of the situation that had been created by the Government in Madras—with a warmth of feeling which he could not have helped and was partly due to the very commencement of the interview at a high temperature. "Lord Ampthill a man of innate sympathy with India and Indians, with an inborn freedom from racial assumption of any kind, with a sense of absolute fair play between country and country and man and man, writes of Sir Subramanya Iyer out of his personal knowledge in his Foreword to Sir Subramanya Iyer's biography written by Rao Saheb Raja Ram Row as follows:—
"I regarded him as the soul of honor, as a man who had absolutely no personal ends to serve and who devoted his great abilities solely to the public good."
Lord Ampthill describes him as "a great gentleman in the truest and best sense of that time-honoured English word." No man could have obtained such an encomium without a keen sense of self-respect, and Sir Subramanya Iyer's idea of self-respect excludes any conscious unworthy action. Whatever Lord Chelmsford might feel about it all, he must now feel convinced, that since the departure of Lord Hardinge there has been a veritable chapter of blunders on account of an initial misdirection in policy—as has been made plain in a masterly retrospect of the change in the Indian situation by Sir Valentine Chirol in The Times. But confining ourselves to Madras even after Lord Hardinge's departure, if Madras had been under Lord Carmichael, things would have been different. Even under Lord Pentland, had the Indian Member of the Executive Council been in touch with the non-official community, and had he sought to discharge his duties regardless of his desire to stick to the office when the prestige of the Government was certain to be seriously affected, the course of events would have been different. Had Dewan Bahadur Rajagopalachariar simply said, "If you want, you may have my vote, but my advice is don't—by no means don't—don't for all that I may happen to be worth in your estimation—" if he had said this, very probably, things would have been different also. But, far from such a diagnosis, he actively associated himself with the repressive policy and in fact went so far as to bespeak Sir Subramanya Iyer himself on its behalf. Evidently Mr. Rajagopalachariar knew as little of Sir Subramaniem as he knew of the current of Indian politics. There are very few occasions for an official of to-day in India to exercise political sagacity. Give him an order he will try to execute it by hook or by crook, but ask him for a policy when a genuine political situation arises, he will unhappily continue to be an official or h# gets into he hands of other officials r With undoubted ability, Mr. Rajagopalachariar has after all shewn that he is so much of an official that he is very nominally an Indian. For, with his ability, if he had cherished a robust sense of patriotism, he would have been saved from the pitfalls of pur-blind officialism. Had he believed that people could be patriotic from high unselfish motives, and had he known his countrymen, he could not have made a mess in reading the opinions of men like Sir Subramaniem, Dewan Madhava Row, Salem Vijayaraghavachariar, M. O. Parthasarathy Aiyangar, not to mention thousands of the articulate section of the community many of whom in every way as capable as he of discharging any responsibility. Ot course, he wishes well of the country, but that kind of wishing well will do no doubt for a Nambudri landlord, but is totally inadequate in one occupying a position of national trust who must represent the self-respect, and the progressive instinct of the people whose trustee he is. When Lord Pentland asked us to put out of thought an early grant of Self-government, he must have said "No my Lord, it is a nation's right to aspire, and it is Great Britain's glory that my nation should. If however any aspirant commits an offence let him be punished. Not for the aspiration but for the offence." If he had said this, Lord Pentland as a Liberal and as a man of rank in politics, would have changed the tenor of his speech and the objective of his policy.
Lord Chelmsford has tripped, on the other hand not because he had no competent counsel by his side but because, unlike Lord Hardinge who treated Sir Syed Ali Imam as though he were his Home Member, Lord Chelmsford very evidently relegated Sir Sankaran Nair to writing minutes of Dissent. We shall illustrate by one notable incident. In the Cawnpore riot just some weeks before the War was to break out, Lord Hardinge and Sir Syed completely out-generalled a dangerous Moslem opposition. Not only, were the ignorant and inflammable elements quieted, but the deputation to England for the redress of a wrong had to return for want of a grievance. Even a boy can now realise how serious the situation would have been and how utterly awkward the position of the authorities if the Cawnpore trouble had been allowed to develop into a great communal sore when the War broke out. In Lord Chelmsford 's case, he does not lack, according to the opinion of the country, a Sir Syed Ali Imam; but Sir Sankaran Nair lacks, and the whole country has lacked a Lord Hardinge. Nearer home, however, Lord Pentland has been absolutely sinned against. Since Sir Harold Stuart's departure an avalanche of advice has decended upon him and left him nowhere, and the worst of it was the Indian Member had long got out of touch with the growing mind of his own countrymen. The one man who could have helped him failed in his grasp and patriotism alike. Mrs. Besant outwitted them all. And when a wrong blow was wrongly aimed, after a wrong speech far too wide of the mark, and when in spite of clearest proof that the Government had taken a false step, instead of gracefully retracing their steps all of them shewed they were in a mood to look for fictitous support from here and there, then indeed we must know to what extent they were prepared to go and how gloriously patriotic has been Sir Subramaniem's service to the Motherland. There are some who believe that but for the safety which old age guarantees, Sir Subramaniya Iyer might not have been as regardless of consequence as he has been, They forget that as an old man he could have found the practice of the sacred Gayatri a more congenial occupation instead of inviting official displeasure. They forget he has possessions and progeny to care for, that he has risen above the leaden weight of both, and has acted like a Sanyasi who has neither. They forget above all that there has not been another old man, although there are many old men, patriotic too, who has found "safety" in his old age as Sir Subramanya Iyer has nobly found. The true explanation of his heroic recklessness lies in the fact that with his innate spiritualism he looks upon the Motherland as a sacrificial altar on which at the hour of call each man must lay with pride and faith all that he may reckon as his. Between steadiness of vision and readiness for action is the frame of the hero encased, and Sir Subramaniem has not only seen life steadily and seen it whole, but has acted as his steady and whole vision impelled him from time to time. Truly, the country seems to have grown younger for his old age.
The child is father of the man is no half truth in the case of Subramaniem—generous to foes, helpful to a fault to friends, loyal to the marrow to a cause that he comes forward to lead, Lord Ampthill's description of him "as the soul of honor" cannot be improved. When the educated Indian is maligned to-day in congenial company, Sir Subramaniem's own account of himself as an educated representative in one of his Memorandums is an unconscious explanation of the motive power of a career that will for a long time to come illumine the province of his birth. In concluding that Memorandum he writes as follows:—
"One like myself—who supported the cause of the raiyats from the year 1877, before the Famine Commission, right on to the day when from my place on the Bench, I did my best to effectuate their rights and thus materially contributed to their victory in their difficult contest with their wealthy opponents—cannot be disposed of as a self-seeking Brahmin inimical to the misses, and my strong advocacy in favour of the particular reforms recommended by ma in my former Memorandum was due solely to the reasons respectfully submitted by me therein. I crave permission to conclude with the remark that, only when those reforms have been granted by Parliament and have become accomplished facts, only then can the masses—for whose well-being extreme solicitude is pretended to be evinced by the inventor of thenovel phrase about the imaginary oligarchy—only then will they be able to look forward with some hope of realisation, for the freedom from these evils and misfortunes to which they are undeniably subject at the hands of the class so loudly professing friendship to them and to which class the inventor of the unscrupulous phrase himself belongs."
This passage breathes the spirit that runs through his career—the spirit of national service—and shews how in his 77th year he stands locked with the Indian Bureaucracy in a constitutional combat of the greatest consequence to the country since its transfer to the Crown.